NC Court of Appeals on Line Between Medical Malpractice and Ordinary Negligence

The North Carolina Court of Appeals issued an opinion on February 16, in Deal v. Frye Regional Medical Center, addressing the line between medical malpractice cases and ordinary negligence cases. There are special requirements on plaintiffs who file malpractice claims, unlike negligence claims, so the line is important. In this case, the decedent had been admitted and was being cared for because of a heart attack and other problems. During his stay, however, the nurses failed to conduct a Fall Risk Screen Assessment (“FRSA”) and failed to implement a fall risk safety policy to protect decedent from falling. Subsequently, the decedent fell out of his hospital bed and fractured his right hip, which required surgery and rehabilitation. The Court held that the potential negligence here -- the failure to conduct the FRSA -- was a professional activity of the nurses, involving clinical judgment, and therefore made the claim one of medical malpractice, not just negligence.

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